Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.
The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.
Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.
The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.
Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.
Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.
Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.
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Panerai Luminor 1950 Sealand Year of the Goat (PAM 848)Perpetuelle.com (blog), December 16th
In 2014 it was the Year of the Horse. In 2015, we get the goat. The Officine Panerai Luminor 1950 Sealand Year of the Goat (PAM 848), a 100 pc limited edition featuring a hunter case decorated with gold-inlaid hand-engraving, will continue Panerai's...Read more
Is this Panerai watch auction set to smash world records?Telegraph.co.uk, December 5th
Horology's most eager and exacting eyes (and sharpest bidding elbows) are firmly set on Paris at the moment, thanks to an upcoming auction exclusively devoted to rare pieces from historical house Panerai. Run by auction house Artcurial (which...Read more
Exceptional collection of vintage Panerai watch designs to go on sale in Pariswallpaper.com, December 4th
Acquiring vintage timepieces can be a tricky business - as with any specialist collectable, if you are not in the know, how do you know where to look? Independent auction houses are a good place to start and the best ones are increasingly savvy to the...Read more
The Watcher: NFL Legend Steve Hutchinson Talks WatchesEsquire (blog), December 3rd
Now retired, Hutchinson does many things, none of which The Watcher cares about except wearing watches. ESQUIRE.COM: What watch are you wearing right now, Steve? Steve Hutchinson: Right now, I have my Panerai 217. It's 47 mm, with a left-handed ...Read more
Panerai Unveil New Luminor Watch Ahead of SIHH 2015Superyachts.com, December 2nd
Italian luxury watchmakers Panerai have launched a new addition to its iconic Luminor range ahead of the 2015 SIHH watch fair in Geneva next month. The Luminor 1950 – 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Ceramica boasts a range of impressive ...Read more
« Panerai Only » in ParisWorld Tempus, November 28th
The vintage watches date from 1930 to 1950, the period when Panerai was official supplier of diving instruments and watches for the Italian navy and did not produce timepieces for the general public. “Pre-Vendôme” models comprise the first Panerai...Read more
If you want an Omega or Panerai watch, don't buy an Apple WatchAppAdvice, November 24th
Do you own a Moto 360, or another Android Wear device? Then you probably know that you can download faces that can make your wearable device look like an Omega, Rolex, or other high-end watch. Apple Watch users won't have the same opportunity, ...Read more
The Panerai PAM 590World Tempus (press release), November 23rd
Panerai developed a water resistant watch with two superimposed dials: one was hollowed out with large 12, 3, 6 and 9 numerals and the other was covered with radium. They were fitted into an oversized case that was 47mm in diameter and housed a Rolex ...Read more